Chill out: South Florida temperatures to plunge into 30s and 40s

01/14/2014 7:41 AM

01/16/2014 8:46 AM

It’s so not Miami.

South Florida’s wannabe winter will force Thursday’s temperatures to the low- to mid-40s in the metro area and could hit the mid- to upper-30s in the late-night hours in West Kendall, Redland and other interior areas of South Florida, threatening some delicate winter crops.

“We see this every winter at least once and usually a couple of times,’’ said Robert Molleda, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “Thursday will be a cool day, even with full sun. We’ll probably top out at around 60 degrees with most of the day in the 50s, setting the stage for the coldest morning, Friday.’’

There is even a possibility of patchy frost in the western areas of Miami-Dade.

Farther north, around Lake Okeechobee, freezing temperatures are possible Thursday night.

A freeze watch is in effect for Hendry, Glades and parts of Broward, Palm Beach and Collier counties.

"Tonight, the big chill," said CBS4 meteorologist Lissette Gonzalez. "You will seriously need to bundle up."

The wind will make it feel even colder, she said.

The chill is expected to last through this weekend’s Art Deco Festival in South Beach, as a third reinforcing cold front makes its debut Saturday.

Organizations working with South Florida’s homeless are mobilizing to open extra beds and to encourage homeless people to take shelter during the cold snap.

“There are street outreach teams working,’’ said Sam Gil, a spokesman for Camillus House.

Miami-Dade farmers are closely monitoring the forecast to protect winter garden crops and ornamental plants from damage from the cold.

Thursday night is expected to be the coldest, and Dave Baskin, a grower at Sturon Nursery a 20-acre nursery in Redland that grows indoor and outdoor foliage, expects to hit the sack early Thursday, setting his alarm for midnight, so he can monitor about a dozen online sites to keep up on the cold snap.

If a frost or near frost seems imminent, plans call for turning on water irrigation systems to keep plants warm. But water also makes plants vulnerable to pathogens, so farmers don’t want to go that route unless it’s essential.

Baskin said the nursery had already begun lowering some winter protective cloth for plants and planned to spray some plants with a protective coating to reduce moisture loss from the cold.

“Even if it’s not freezing, there is a higher risk of aesthetic damage for ornamental plants,’’ said E. Vanessa Campoverde, commercial horticulture extension agent with the UF/IFAS Miami-Dade County Extension. “Our growers are always concerned if it drops below the 40s.’’

Among other things, she said, tropical palms can suffer cold burns that wreak havoc on their appearance, which is crucial to sales.

“The upper 30s, depending on the winds, could damage tender growth of beans and squash, depending on the wind and the duration,’’ said Teresa Olczyk, county extension director for the University of Florida/IFAS Miami-Dade County Extension.

“This time of year, there are two things: The east coast winter vegetables, and all of us have planted ornamentals in anticipation of spring,’’ said Baskin. “This is our most tender moment.’’

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